The offices of feng shui masters Pun-Yin and her father Tin-Sun inhabit a dimly lit basement space, replete with lush plants and gurgling fountains, deep in New York City’s Chinatown.
Inside, framed photos decorate the walls, including one taken some 20 years ago. In it, the then 27-year-old Pun-Yin stood front-and-center before a group of people –among them a young socialite called Marla Maples, and a slightly less orange Donald Trump.
The caption beneath it reads: Photo taken at the Trump Int’l Hotel & Tower groundbreaking and blessing Ceremony on June 1995.
Donald Trump, our zealous and erratic Republican presidential nominee, hardly seems to embody the principles of the ancient Chinese philosophy that aims to harmonize people with their physical surroundings. And yet, according to Pun-Yin, for decades, incorporating those principles into his real estate holdings was one of Trump’s foremost priorities.
But his reasons were hardly spiritual. Beginning in 1995, Trump hired Pun-Yin and her father to assess the energy of his Int’l Hotel & Tower development project and make the necessary changes to its design, in a calculated move to tap into the burgeoning market of international investors in US real estate from China and Hong Kong. For such respected clients, a building lacking in feng shui could be a dealbreaker.
And it seems the famously bullheaded real estate developer met his match in Pun-Yin. An apprentice to her father for 15 years, Pun-Yin made a name for herself when she took on the project, for which Trump invested $230m in revamping the building.
Until I did this project and took off, it was not a female industry at all, Pun-Yin said, referring to the cult of mostly male feng shui masters. As a woman, you have to be 50 to 60 years old. So I broke rank not only as a female but also as a young female.
When Pun-Yin saw the Trump Int’l Hotel & Tower, the energy was so bad, she insisted that it had to be her way or the highway. She said, By the time we went there and saw it, we said, ‘We’re not going to do this project with you unless you follow us completely.’
Not one to miss out on a potential financial opportunity, Trump complied. It’s just another element in which you can have the advantage over your competitors, Trump told the New York Times for an article about feng shui in 1994. Asians are becoming a big part of our market and this is something we can’t ignore.
Keep in mind this is the same man who recently blamed China for the greatest theft in the history of the world, and who perpetually accuses the country of manipulating its currency. Yet few have capitalized on the potential investment opportunity that China represents more than Trump.
Today, some of the Trump International Hotel and Tower’s most iconic features are the result of the counsel Pun-Yin provided at the time. The metal globe that stands before the building was intended to deflect the negative energy produced by the oncoming traffic in Columbus Circle. And the tower’s tea-colored glassy exterior, which reflects the surrounding sky, was said to absorb the negative energy caused by the wind’s sway upon the building.
Pun-Yin also insisted that the entrance of the building face Central Park, which she refers to as the green dragon of New York City, instead of its original orientation, which faced Columbus Circle.
The instability of energy caused by traffic coming at the building – it’s almost like bullets flying at you all the time. It’s not stable. It’s not calm, she said.
In fact, Pun-Yin attributes the success Trump found in that project to some seriously good feng shui, made possible by her and her dad. That’s why the press started coming to talk about this project, she said. And then a few years later, with the grand opening, it was the same thing. There were 10 years of international media coming to me and talking about his project.
She added, That’s why he became the most profitable real estate developer.
To be clear, Trump is neither the most profitable real estate developer, nor is he the largest. But the flurry of media attention from Trump’s tower not only made a name for Pun-Yin, it also introduced the concept of feng shui into the mainstream.
Soon after the project broke ground, the discipline – previously a foreign concept in the west – became a household name. A New Yorker cartoon from 1995 depicts a broker, who stands on the balcony of an apartment building with two prospective buyers and says, A million two does seem a bit heavy for a one-bedroom at first, but this unit has the best feng shui in the building.
In the late 1990s, interior designers began appropriating elements of the philosophy for a western audience, while publishers put out accessible feng shui books with titles like Dorm Room Feng Shui to provide college students with quick and inexpensive feng shui fixes like putting a pink seashell in the corner of the room to attract true love. But, Pun-Yin insists, much of the true meaning of feng shui has been lost on commercialized gimmicks.
Nowadays, Bill Seto, a veteran New York broker who specializes in the Asian-majority market in Flushing, Queens, said that while it was once regarded as an obscure philosophy, feng shui is now a tool of the trade. It’s heavily practiced in Manhattan. Brokers are starting to take courses in feng shui because it helps them market their property better, he said.
As for Pun-Yin, she has established a robust business for herself with a wide array of clients and projects, ranging from the CEO of fashion label Theory, Andrew Rosen, to projects commissioned by the local government.
When I contacted her again – my first interview with her was two years ago – to divine her thoughts on the impending presidential election, I caught her between feng shui consultations.
I’d have to consult with my lawyers to comment on my client, she said. And my plate is too full to take this on.
News Source TheGuardianNews